Differentiating current and past PCB and PCDD/F sources: The role of a large contaminated soil site in an industrialized city area

Antonio Di Guardo, Elisa Terzaghi, Giuseppe Raspa, Sara Borin, Francesca Mapelli, Bessem Chouaia, Elisabetta Zanardini, Cristiana Morosini, Andrea Colombo, Elena Fattore, Enrico Davoli, Stefano Armiraglio, Vanna M. Sale, Simone Anelli, Paolo Nastasio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cities and contaminated areas can be primary or secondary sources of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), dibenzofurans (PCDFs), and other chemicals, into air and soil and can influence the regional level of some of these pollutants. In a contaminated site, the evaluation of such emissions can be crucial in the choice of the remediation technology to be adopted. In the city of Brescia (Northern Italy), more than 100 ha of agricultural areas were contaminated with PCBs, PCDD/Fs and heavy metals, originating from the activities of a former PCB factory. In order to evaluate the current emissions of PCBs and PCDD/Fs from the contaminated site, in a location where other current sources are present, we compared measured and predicted air concentrations, resulting from chemical volatilization from soils as well as fingerprints of Brescia soils and of soils contaminated by specific sources. The results confirm that the contaminated area is still a current and important secondary source of PCBs to the air, and to a lesser extent of PCDFs (especially the more volatile), but not for PCDDs. PCBs in soils have fingerprints similar to highly chlorinated mixtures, indicating contamination by these mixtures and/or a long weathering process. PCB 209 is also present at important levels. PCDD fingerprints in soil cannot be related to current emission sources, while PCDFs are compatible to industrial and municipal waste incineration, although weathering and/or natural attenuation may have played a role in modifying such soil fingerprints. Finally, we combined chemical and microbiological analyses to provide an integrated approach to evaluate soil fingerprints and their variation in a wider perspective, which accounts for the mutual effects between contamination and soil microbiota, a pivotal hint for addressing in situ bioremediation activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-375
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Brescia-Caffaro
  • Contaminated site
  • Fate modelling
  • Fingerprint
  • Microbiological profiling
  • SoilPlus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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